Aug. 31, 2005
It was so sad to see Dwight "Doc" Gooden when he turned himself in to police recently. Many of you have followed the soap opera spinning out of control as the superstar has fallen upon hard times since leaving the baseball diamond.
He was so dominant when he first started in the major leagues. Just look back to what Gooden did at age 20 in 1985: He won the NL Cy Young award by going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA. In each of his first two seasons in the majors, he struck out more than 250 batters.
Gooden and his buddy, Darryl Strawberry, were the toast of New York City. They played a vital role in the success of the Mets, leading them to the world championship in 1986.
It is clear that success ate him up alive.
The Gooden story has taken a major turn when you consider what has happened in his life. He reportedly earned over $35 million dollars in his career, and now he is struggling big-time financially, physically and emotionally.
It is a sad, sad story, and you only hope that he can turn his life around. He is still young enough (40), but he has to admit he has a problem, look in the mirror and try to make changes.
As I have said many times, and I express this when I speak to young kids, life is very simple. It's about making choices -- if you make the right ones, good things will happen. Make bad choices and you head down the valley.
It was a shame to see that photo of Gooden when he was taken into custody. I second what was said by Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News -- they should take that picture and post it in every major-league baseball clubhouse in America. They should also put it up in locker rooms in high schools and colleges and tell people what has happened.
It's about handling success in the big city. It is clear that success ate him up alive.
That's why I respect people like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, stars who have been able to make good decisions and to work through the fame and glory. Young people should emulate their actions.
Let's hope the next chapter in Gooden's life has a happier ending. Hopefully he can get his life back in order as a responsible young man. It is sad to see that his 19-year-old son has been arrested, as well. It has to be tough to tell your son not to play that game and to make better decisions when Gooden clearly did not set a good example.
It is time for Doc Gooden to become a man who gets back in the winner's circle of life.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.